Goldman Sachs strategist: Yes, Marine Le Pen can win in France

Goldman says Le Pen can win

The consensus on Wall Street is that euroskeptic Marine Le Pen will not be the next president of France. But not everybody is 100 percent committed to that outlook.

One strategist at Goldman Sachs says the market is too complacent about the coming election in the eurozone's second-biggest economy, telling clients in an email that "while the base case is that she won't, it is at best naive, at worst negligent to assume she can't."

Bobby Vedral, global head of Goldman's MarketStrats group, sent the note to clients this week with an analysis showing how it's possible for the populist Le Pen to garner more than 50 percent of the vote in the expected second round of the election. (If no one wins more than half the vote in the first round on April 23, then the top two vote-getters face off in a May 7 runoff.)

Political correctness leads people to lie in the polls. Hence populist candidates benefit from the 'shy vote.'
Bobby Vedral
global head, Goldman Sachs MarketStrats

The outcome of the election could reverberate far beyond France: Le Pen has called for the country to leave from the European Union. Such a step could prove fatal for the political bloc, which is already reeling from a U.K. vote last summer to leave the union.

To be sure, Vedral agrees that the most likely outcome is the one predicted by the polls, which suggest that Le Pen and Emanuel Macron will face off in the second round. Those polls also show Macron getting more than 60 percent in the second round.

However, the Goldman strategist notes data in the polls that raise doubts. When asked who they would vote for in the second round if their candidate lost, an astonishingly high percentage of people answered "don't know" — as high as 42 percent, depending on the candidate. (There are 11 people running.)

Macron 'overwhelmingly likely' to beat Le Pen: PIIE

Vedral said he suspects that a lot of those people don't want to admit they will vote for Le Pen, who is a hardliner against immigration, particularly Muslim immigration. "Political correctness leads people to lie in the polls," Vedral said. "Hence populist candidates benefit from the 'shy vote.'"

If two-thirds of those undecided voters go to Le Pen, Vedral said, she gets awfully close to winning.

What would push her over the 50 percent threshold is the possibility that she has the more committed voters.

While the national average for voter turnout in France is 80 percent, Vedral thinks Le Pen could get 85 percent of her supporters to show up at the polls. If Macron gets only 75 percent of his voters to cast their ballots, Le Pen could be the next president of France.

Political polls have proven badly inaccurate in recent years in the United States, United Kingdom and beyond.